No one has or ever would accuse Jeff Goodby of being partisan. The creative chief and co-chairman of Goodby Silverstein & Partners is perhaps the only ad professional in recent memory to have had two stints as head of jury at Cannes - once in 2002, heading the print and television jury, and returning to head the judging process for the recently launched Titanium Lions, this year. On neither occasion did Goodby Silverstein & Partners fare particularly well.
Goodby seems wryly amused by the fact that his agency hasn't been in the best of form in 2005, with none of its most famous ads like the 'Got Milk' campaign making the grade. The only trophies it bagged were in the radio category, but Goodby's not complaining. “It was an okay year for us - not great,” he says. “The two years I have been judging, we didn't win much, so it didn't seem like I was affecting the outcome.”
His equanimity is a total contrast to the Indian delegation, which seemed ready to bring out the sackcloth-and-ashes by the end of the festival. Goodby recommends, “One thing that would really help is to have a large number of Indian creative people and clients come to the festival and see and feel the work.
If you look at it from home or on a reel, you don't get the kind of ingenuity it takes to win.” However, on being informed that the Indian delegation was quite sizeable at Cannes this year, he laughs, “Maybe they are spending all their time at the bars!”
There are some aspects of Cannes Lions that he's less than enthusiastic about, though. The client presence at the festival, which was huge in 2004, was bigger yet this year, with everyone from McDonald's to Unilever and P&G organising workshops and dinners. The new festival CEO Terry Savage is laying the red carpet out, pushing for even greater levels of advertiser involvement, and more seminars. Goodby has his misgivings: “I know how it started; it was innocent.
A creative person said let's get a client here to take in the process, and as a result, he might buy better work.” But clients have undeniably changed the atmosphere of the show. Goodby says with indignation, “Way too many of my friends are working, going to client meetings and strategy sessions.
It's not what the week should be about! We shouldn't be on our best behavior. It ought to be about celebrating the freedom of being a creative person. I do work here, but my job is to be inspired by the creations of people around the world, not to attend strategy meetings.”
Goodby shares none of the fatigue so common among judges at Cannes, overwhelmed by the sheer number of entries and the passion with which they are discussed.
He's obviously excited by the new Titanium category, describing how, even as entries were being judged, the parameters moved from campaigns that merely used integrated media to ones that took advertising forward.
He says, “Hopefully, it will inspire new forms of media. But in the future, the idea of judging press, outdoor, radio or a TV commercial all by itself will be like judging a car by its carburetor. Our job is bigger than awarding components of the campaign, and we can't stop there.”
The timing of the Titanium is interesting, coming as it does when every agency from TBWA to JWT is expressing suspicion about the abilities of the hoary 30-second TV spot. Even as ad gurus proclaim the death of the 30-second commercial, Goodby has a more guarded take on the issue: “The reports of its decline are exaggerated. At this moment in time, it's still the quickest way to reach the largest number of people.
But while it's true, even as we speak, it's becoming less and less true.” Goodby points to technological developments that make avoiding ads easier than ever before - devices like TiVo.
The solution, Goodby feels, is not sponsored content, as some people think. He says, “If the world becomes about sponsored content, people will avoid it the way they avoid bad ads now.” He recommends creating ads that people actually want to see and are willing to seek out.
He elaborates, “The main advertising will be stuff that tells us where to go to see the advertising - something like 'the new Nike commercial will be on tonight at 10:04.' And we'll respect those brands so much, that we'll want to watch their ads and others like them.
” He envisages an era, where advertisers will have their commercials as content, maybe as part of an on-demand channel, allowing people to watch old Nike and 'Got Milk' commercials, which they know are good, just the way they opt to see a movie today.